UW-Fox Valley Logo

Weis Earth Science Museum Offers 'Right Beneath Our Feet' Exhibit

[This page is preserved for historical and reference purposes only.  The information contained on it may no longer be current.]

The Weis Earth Science Museum (WESM) is pleased to announce the opening of the exhibit, “Right Beneath Our Feet: The Fox Valley Mineral Collection of Carol Levenhagen.” The exhibit runs through January 31, 2005.

“We don’t often think about the rocks beneath our feet,” remarked Joanne Kluessendorf, director of the WESM, the state’s official mineralogical museum. “The collecting efforts of Neenah resident Carol Levenhagen remind us that they sometimes hold unexpected treasures.”

Kluessendorf explains that Levenhagen found 14 different mineral species, many of them quite rare in Wisconsin, along with unusual crystal forms of some of the more common minerals. “Carol had no background in geology, yet was observant enough and passionate enough to find some of the rarer stuff. These beautiful objects are literally right beneath our feet, here in Wisconsin, in the Fox Valley,” Kluessendorf said.

Levenhagen explains how she came to “discover” and assemble the remarkable collection near her home in Neenah, where new construction is taking place on a regular basis.

“After the contractors were gone for the day and things had quieted down, we would usually take an evening walk back to the site to watch the deer come in to feed. The site reminded me of a quarry I had grown up near in Neenah where my older brother would, years later, tell me of seeing ‘big chunks of calcite’ in some of the exposed walls. That particular quarry has long since been filled, but the desire to have been older at that time to have been able to see for myself some of the formations in it has remained with me. When we happened upon the area of this construction site that was being blasted, I became intrigued because it paralleled in appearance that quarry from long ago.

“I started to go through some of the loose rubble and found some ‘fool’s gold.’ I made sure to show it to my children, hoping they would become interested in helping me dig around to find other things. The plan worked and, before long, they were bringing specimens of different things with unique shapes and colors and asking about them. I didn’t know the answers, but I assured them that we would find out. A co-worker of mine suggested I try calling the Weis Earth Science Museum to see if they would be willing to help me identify the specimens. So, I did just that.

“Much to my surprise, these specimens were actually of interest to the Museum. This only increased our interest in finding better examples from the site, as blasting had damaged much of what was there,” she recalled.

“Just about every day after work we would go down to the site and continue looking. We always came across something a little different, a little more interesting. We had to go back, especially knowing that it would soon be filled back in… every trip to the site was fun and challenging,” Levenhagen said.

Levenhagen shared, “I have always had an appreciation for things of nature. Having also grown up with a brother who was in a wheelchair due to polio, we seldom went traveling. There was no such thing back then as the ‘Americans with Disabilities Act,’ like we have today. Due to being ‘home bound,’ as a family we spent most of our time in our own yard, usually tracking birds, watching for severe thunderstorms. Meteorology became, and still is, my first love.

“I’ve now have a ‘second love’ because of these geology finds. We had great fun in the process of finding these items. It didn’t cost us anything, and we became much more knowledgeable about the rich geologic history right beneath our feet.”

Joanne Kluessendorf Kluessendorf expressed that, “We hope that area residents and guests will visit the exhibit to see the beautiful minerals Carol has discovered right here in the Fox Valley.” The museum is open from Noon – 4:00 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays; Noon to 7:00 p.m. on Fridays; 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays; and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays.

For more information please contact the museum staff at 920.832.2925 or email joanne.kluessendorf@uwc.edu.

Posted 11/22/2004